Wednesday, January 30, 2019


The Fourth CourierThe Fourth Courier by Timothy Jay Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

”He’d walked enough of Warsaw’s gray streets and grim underground passages, glancing at the faces of passersby--each a map of a wounded country--and wondered if what he considered his rebelliousness, bred in America’s suburban comfort, could have survived what they had endured. Or would he have resigned himself to the half-empty glass of their existence?”

FBI Agent James ‘Jay’ Porter has been dispatched to Warsaw, Poland, to find out why dead men keep appearing on the river bank, each with the knob of a sixth finger and hands that light up a geiger counter like the fireworks celebrating Wianki.

This is 1992, and the Soviet Union has very recently imploded. The major concern that the US and their allies have after this collapse is, how secure is the massive stockpiles of nuclear material the Russians developed during the Cold War? The rush to embrace capitalism in Russia has consolidated the economy into the hands of the few who are strong enough to control it. In other words, Russia has become a Mafia state where everything is for sale. What better way to make a few million dollars quick than to smuggle some of this nuclear material to somebody with the ambition to use it, or threaten to use it, to leverage his way to power?

That person turns out to be General Drako Mladic, the head of Yugoslavia Secret Services, who dreams of the power that owning the most dangerous weapon ever created will bring him. He has made contact with a Russian scientist, Dr. Sergej Ustinov, who has developed a portable nuclear bomb. He also has a long term relationship with the Director of Organized Crime, Basia Husarska, in his pocket and, when he requires it, in his bed. He feels Poland is the perfect place to make the exchange for what he wants. He just needs to get Ustinov and Husarska together.

Husarska is a classic femme fatale. ”Her fur coat hung open to reveal long legs sheathed by black stockings. She looked as glossy and sexy as if she’d stepped off the page of one of his girlie magazines. Dravko had sent that black-clad angel of seduction for him. Sergej raised a hand and feebly waved.” She knows there is no better time to score big than when a country is in flux while it is struggling to discover a new identity. She is willing to do anything to escape Poland, as long as she can figure out a way to leave with enough money to live in the style she wishes to become accustomed to. Time is short, and her desperation is forcing her to take more and more chances that will either land her in prison for the rest of her life, get her dead, or fly her away to an island escape.

Mladic is a complicated, conflicted man, who wants to be with men but loathes his own desires.“He could masquerade for others, but Basia had known him for too long. When the stunts he wanted her to perform turned demeaning, she recognized it for what it was: degradation of women as permission to desire men.” CIA agent Kurt Crawford knows perfectly how to handle Mladic. Crawford is black, gay, lethal, and built like a Greek God. He is willing to do anything it takes to keep Mladic from acquiring what he wants.

This is a tale of double-crosses within double-crosses, seasoned with a healthy mix of murder. There are dead couriers, with slashed faces, and more to join them, as a diabolic plan starts to unravel. Porter and Crawford may be one step ahead of the game, but with each new revelation, the board flips from Monopoly to Clue to Risk. Will they lose on one of the last major moves of the Cold War, leaving the world in a permanent state of jeopardy at the hands of an ambitious, ruthless man?

Timothy Jay Smith perfectly captures the gloomy, atmospheric uncertainty of Poland in the upheaval of the 1990s. Opportunities, unique possibilities, and even dreams are opening up for the Polish people for the first time in more than a generation. Smith’s depiction of his amoral characters are fully developed, fully fleshed creatures, who force people of principle to change the rules of engagement if they have any hopes of stopping them. While reading this book, I was able to relive my own anxieties from the 1990s, when I, too, was worried about the dissolution of the Soviet Union and what that meant to the security of their nuclear arsenal. I was in particular reminded of the nightmare events of the 1997 movie The Peacemaker, starring George Clooney and Nicole Kidman.

Just before Timothy Jay Smith got in touch with me about reading his book, I’d just watched the strange, ambiguous, very unsettling movie Dark Crimes (2018 release in the US), starring Jim Carrey, which is based off a true story by David Grann. This movie depicts a Poland still suspended in a distant past, with many people worried about an uncertain future, and the effects the “perversities of freedom,” sex, drugs, and outside culture, would have on the emerging, new Poland.

Need a great thriller? Look no further. Smith delivers.

I want to thank Timothy Jay Smith and Arcade Publishing for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Friday, January 25, 2019

The Powers of Love

J.M. Snyder
JMS Books
Reviewed by Nancy
4 out of 5 stars


With his shaved head, piercings, and tattoos, the muscular Vic Braunson isn’t one who falls hopelessly in love at first sight. But when he meets swim instructor Matt diLorenzo at the gym, sparks fly ... despite the fact that Matt is dating Vic’s co-worker.

Then a chance encounter months later brings them together. When they finally consummate their relationship, there’s no denying the energy between them. But the next morning, Vic awakens to find his mind crowded with a myriad of thoughts, none of them his own. After their second night of making love, Vic is filled with unparalleled strength. Oh, and now he can fly.

Suddenly Vic is filled with questions he doesn’t know how to answer. First, just what exactly is going on here? And how does he tell Matt without alienating his new lover or ruining their budding relationship? Or does Matt know something he, himself, is only now discovering?

My Review

What a fun story! Vic Braunson is a city bus driver who feels Matt diLorenzo’s eyes on him while he’s lifting weights at the gym. To Vic’s great disappointment, it turns out Matt is his co-worker Kyle’s main squeeze. A few months later, Matt boards Vic’s bus towards the end of his shift and invites him out for a drink. Matt wants to start off their relationship slowly. Four months later, on New Year’s Eve, they make love for the first time. Vic’s shaved head, tattoos and muscular build cannot belie his romantic nature. He’s in love with Matt and wants him to be “the one”.

As Matt and Vic become closer, Vic discovers new and unusual abilities that he can’t understand and is having a difficult time coping with. He wants to talk to Matt about what’s happening, but he’s afraid of losing him. Vic finally opens up to Matt, and realizes that he'll have to put up with his super powers if they are to stay together.

I really enjoyed this humorous, sexy and sweet story. Vic and Matt have an amazing connection, the sex is hot, and the emotions intense. I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

The Sentry

The SentryThe Sentry by Paul Jenkins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Bob Reynolds wakes up one morning knowing something is wrong.

He can't immediately put his finger on what it is, but he thinks he's a superhero.

After some time he's sure he's a hero, but he can't understand why he and everyone else has forgotten him. The one thing he knows for sure is that his enemy, The Void, is returning and he's the only one who can stop him.

The Sentry was an interesting tale of a forgotten hero that the world was made to forget. Even his wife forgot who he was.

The Sentry was best friends with Mr. Fantastic and the ally of all the major superheroes. He's determined to help them remember and to figure out why everyone forgot.

I unfortunately already knew the main points of this story as I'm reading it over a decade after it was released. I can't help but believe it effected my enjoyment level of the story. To me the story felt far too long considering the amount of story that was unveiled. Five issues were spent with Bob Reynolds remembering who he was and trying to get the others to remember. That felt as though it could have been accomplished in an issue or two instead. I was surprised at the ultimate conclusion because it seemed simplistic and ineffective.

The Sentry was an interesting way to install a new character while making he seem like an old one. It was a creative idea to say the least.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2019


The Perilous Adventures of the Cowboy King: A Novel of Teddy Roosevelt and His TimesThe Perilous Adventures of the Cowboy King: A Novel of Teddy Roosevelt and His Times by Jerome Charyn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

”I stepped into the roaring crowd of greeters--that was the Roosevelt way.

‘Mr. President, Mr. President.’

Babies were thrust at me. I wanted to rock them in my arms, reassure a mother or two, but I didn’t dare in a field of bayonets that reminded me of monstrous porcupine quills. I could feel my freedom slip away with a sudden pull, like the silent shrug of a straitjacket. I didn’t require bayonets, not at all. Deep within my throat, I let out the Rough Rider rip.


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Theodore Roosevelt, always rough and ready.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, our 32nd President, was not the first Roosevelt to be accused of being a traitor to his class. Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, was accused of that long before Franklin entered the fray. Theodore was a true son to his father, who also waged his own battles against inequality. He called his father Brave Heart, and for the rest of his life, he did his best to live up to the high ideals his father embraced. Being called a traitor to your class when you belong to the wealthiest elites was about the largest compliment that could be paid to any man.

Teddy was a driven man. One could say he was reckless and almost desperate to push the limits of the definition of what a man is supposed to be. He was living LARGE a century and some change before the concept became a slang term for a lifestyle of extravagance. He did spend money, and it went through his fingers like sand because of his many interests. His version of extravagance was in how he devoted his time and energy to large and small endeavors. He was a New Yorker who bought into the concept of the West representing the place where a man could truly find the person he was meant to be. The West was JUST big enough to contain the expansiveness of Theodore’s vibrant personality.

Theodore would have been perfectly happy making a life for himself out West, but the East Coast would be the arena in which he would have to wage a war for the soul of America. The corruption was there; inequality was embraced there, and he wanted the power and influence to change it.

Jerome Charyn brought the legend charmingly to life by telling the story of his life with wit, style, and humor. His descriptions were so vivid and written with such verve that I felt almost as if, from the kaleidoscope of images in my mind, that I was reading a graphic novel. If it were a graphic novel, it would be a weighty volume because there was simply no way to contain Roosevelt to a small panel on a page. Each illustrated panel would have to be a full sized page to accommodate his large teeth, his bullish body, and his booming voice.

Theodore took on men with names like Jay Gould and Pierpont Morgan who saw him as a threat to their profits. For men like these, there was never enough money in their possession. The concept of giving men a living wage was as foreign an idea to these rich robber barons as shaking hands with the man in the moon. The contentious Roosevelt transformed the NY police department and found that the cancer of corruption had almost consumed the whole body of the police force. He had to cut out more than he kept. The famous newspaper man Joseph Pulitzer knew where his bread was buttered with men like Gould and Morgan, but he also knew that Roosevelt always made good copy.

”Mr. Joseph Pulitzer was relentless in his attacks on my presidency of the Police Board. He called me ‘that little runt of a man with the red moustache’ who had failed as a Civil Service Commissioner and was now making a mess of 300 Mulberry Street. The World swore I was a despot, the czar of czars. Pulitzer couldn’t stop talking about my teeth. ‘Roosevelt’s satanic grin,’ the World said. ‘The Commissioner looks like a crazed colt.’

Considered that a compliment.”

The American people loved Roosevelt. The Republican Party, to which he belonged, was less enamored with the young firebrand. He was too popular to destroy, but he was too unpredictable to trust. He couldn’t be bribed. He couldn’t be reasoned with if he knew his cause was just. He would not fall in line with a party platform.

What to do with him?

They buried him as Undersecretary of the Navy, but he emerged from there, somehow, the hero of San Juan Hill in Cuba. The crafty Republican bosses, with much chuckling I’m sure, decided that the best place to tuck Roosevelt out of the way was as President William McKinley’s Vice President.

Let’s just say, Theodore Roosevelt was impossible to contain. The universe by a series of quirks of fate always seemed to make way for him.

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The author Jerome Charyn, looking rough and ready as well.

This book will be so enjoyable for anyone who has an interest in history. Though this is a novel, it is based upon the true events of his life. People are a product of the times they live in, and a man like Theodore Roosevelt was always knee deep in whatever was going on. For people who know nothing about Theodore Roosevelt, this book will be a great introduction to the man. For those who know a little, they will be given a wonderful back bone of knowledge to help them pursue more in-depth studies of his life. For those, like myself, who know quite a bit about the man, they will be entertained by the way Charyn deftly brought the man and the people around him to life. He was so alive I felt like I could reach into the pages of the book and shake the man’s hand.

If you want to meet the man who actually lived up to the myths surrounding him, then there is no better place than in The Perilous Adventures of the Cowboy King. (@CowboyKingTR)

I want to thank Rachel Gul, Liveright Publishing (@LiverightPub), and Jerome Charyn (@jeromecharyn) for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Friday, January 18, 2019

Turner Classic Movies: Must-See Sci-fi: 50 Movies That Are Out of This World

Sloan De Forest
Running Press Adult
Reviewed by Nancy
4 out of 5 stars


Spanning nine decades and branded by the most trusted authority on film, Turner Classic Movies: Must-See Sci-Fi showcases 50 of the most shocking, weird, wonderful, and mind-bending movies ever made.

From A Trip to the Moon (1902) to Arrival (2016), science fiction cinema has produced a body of classics with a broader range of styles, stories, and subject matter than perhaps any other film genre. They are movies that embed themselves in the depths of the mind, coloring our view of day-to-day reality and probably fueling a few dreams (and nightmares) along the way.

In Turner Classic Movies: Must-See Sci-Fi, fifty unforgettable films are profiled, including beloved favorites like The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) and Fantastic Voyage (1966), groundbreaking shockers like Planet of the Apes (1968) and Alien (1979), and lesser-known landmarks like Things to Come (1936) and Solaris (1972). Illustrated by astounding color and black-and-white images, the book presents the best of this mind-bending genre, detailing through insightful commentary and behind-the-scenes stories why each film remains essential viewing. A perfect gift for any film buff or sci-fi fanatic!

My Review

This was a fun book and a basic introduction to a wide range of classic science fiction films from as early as 1902 to as recently as 2016. I’m thrilled that three of my all-time favorites, Star Wars, Logan’s Run and Woody Allen’s Sleeper, made this list. Since I’ve already seen them multiple times, I will spend some time catching up on those movies I haven’t seen yet, those I viewed only once as a child, and those I enjoyed enough to see again. I’m also thrilled that there is a solid representation of foreign films.

Here is the list of movies to watch before I die:

A Trip to the Moon (1902) France
Metropolis (1927) Germany
Island of Lost Souls (1932) US
Things to Come (1936) UK
The Thing From Another World (1951) US
The Thing (1982) US
It Came From Outer Space (1953) US
Them! (1954) US
Forbidden Planet (1956) US
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) US
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) US
The Fly (1958) US
The Fly (1986) US
The Blob (1958) US
The Time Machine (1960) US
La jetée (1962) France
These are the Damned (1962) US/UK
Alphaville (1965) France
Fantastic Voyage (1966) US
Barbarella (1968) US
THX 1138 (1971) US
Silent Running (1972) US
Solaris (1972) Russia
Sleeper (1973) US
The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) UK
Blade Runner (1982) US
The Brother From Another Planet (1984) US
Brazil (1985) US
RoboCop (1987) US
A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001) US
District 9 (2009) US

This book is sturdy, well written, and the photos are outstanding. I especially enjoyed the “Far-Out Facts” and “Mind-Blowing Moment” sections. During one of the most intense scenes in The Fly, Vincent Price and Herbert Marshall kept laughing during the filming. A few years after the release of A Clockwork Orange, Malcolm McDowell was introduced to Gene Kelly at a party. Kelly looked at him and quickly walked away. As if that wasn’t enough, McDowell also suffered an eye injury from the metal eyelid clamps he had to wear.

This is just a minor complaint, but I would have liked a little more in-depth analysis of the films. As it is, the book is perfect as a short introduction to the films within.

Recommended for classic movie and science fiction fans.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Dragon Ball: That Time I Got Reincarnated as Yamcha!

Dragon Ball: That Time I Got Reincarnated as Yamcha!Dragon Ball: That Time I Got Reincarnated as Yamcha! by Dragongarow Lee
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A Japanese High Schooler, who happens to be a Dragon Ball fan, dies trying to check out a girl.

When he wakes up he finds out that he's Yamcha early in the Dragon Ball saga.

After being momentarily freaked out he gets excited. Yamcha is in a relationship with Bulma and he's never had a girlfriend so he's psyched. Until he remembers that Yamcha is going to die.

Then he vows to get stronger so he can save himself.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as Yamcha is basically fan fiction. An ultimate Dragon Ball can being reincarnated as a character in the series is hardly a groundbreaking concept. It was good that instead of him being Goku, Gohan, or Vegeta he became Yamcha. He knows at best he's screwed so he trains his behind off to try to buy himself some time, but he has no hope of keeping up with the Saiyans and Piccolo long term. He was pretty ingenuous. I enjoyed it overall even though the ending was silly and the story felt short.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2019


Fallen MountainsFallen Mountains by Kimi Cunningham Grant
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

”You really never know people, not fully. People are strange. They hold onto things, they have secrets. And trust me we do things we didn’t think we were capable of, good and bad. All of us. People can commit all sorts of atrocities, even normal people, good people. Think of wars. How else could such barbarities occur, if the deep capacity to do evil didn’t exist in every one of us?”


There are all kinds of different secrets. Some of them are merely embarrassing; some of them are compromising to other people, and some of them are secrets that, if revealed, would tear down our lives, timber by timber, brick by brick.

Everyone in Fallen Mountains has a secret, and some harbor whole card decks of secrets. I grew up in a town even smaller than Fallen Mountains, and one of the things I learned very quickly was that secrets are hard to keep in small towns. Everyone is aware of what everyone else is doing. They all have the prodigious memory of elephants, and they remember everything everyone has ever done. It is hard for someone to grow into a new person in a small town with no way to escape any part of his or her past. ”The past is never dead. It isn’t even past.” --William Faulkner Secrets in small towns are handled as carefully as a crate of nitroglycerin. Once a secret is revealed, the blast tends to ripple through a community, flattening lives like a category five tornado.

Some people like the suffocating coziness of a small town, and others can’t leave fast enough. Possum, Red, Chase, Jack, Maggie, and Laney are people who have stayed in Fallen Mountains. It is home and will be home until the day people use the words “rest in peace” when they mention their names.

Now Transom Shultz, best friend of Chase Hardy, left Fallen Mountains, but he has come back. He is a polarizing figure. A man who can make people love him or hate him in equal measure. He takes what he wants and leaves behind what he is done with. Chase has a lifetime of memories shared with Transom, not that he isn’t aware of some of his fallacies, but he forgives him because he loves him like a brother.

He trusts him.

With the death of his Grandfather Jack, Chase has inherited the farm that has been in his family for over two hundred years. The Keeten family farm in Kansas has only been in our possession for 138 years, so I have to tip my hat to a family that can own a piece of land that long. It isn’t easy, as Chase is finding out. The farm is struggling. It was in trouble even before Chase inherited, and now things have become dire. Chase doesn’t want to be the one, in an unbroken string of ancestors, to lose the farm.

When Transom offers to buy the farm, it is like a rumble of thunder in the middle of a drought. Unfortunately, it isn’t until after the paperwork is signed that Chase discovers that their view of the land is different

”’It’s just land, Boss,’ Transom called.

Chase slipped into his boots and turned and looked back. ‘It was never just land to me.’”

Transom starts raping everything that can be sold off the land. Oil is pumped out of the ground by a fracking company. Old growth timber is chainsawed down and hauled off the hillsides with heavy machinery that leaves deep wounds in the earth. It would take up to three generations to regrow that timber that took mere days to destroy. By trying to save the land, Chase has destroyed it.

Transom disappears.

He has run off before. Things have gotten a little too real in the past, and he has vamoosed to somewhere far away from the trouble he is trying to duck. As Sheriff John “Red” Redifer begins to investigate, he starts to realize that this time might be different, and as much as he would like Transom’s disappearance to be connected to the oil or timber people, he has a suspicion that it might have something to do with one of his Fallen Mountains people.

It could all come back to some of those secrets. Red has his own secret, and this one particular secret is starting to eat him alive. Laney, best friends with Chase and Transom, has a secret that makes her as nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof anytime someone mentions Transom. Possum has a secret that is “tied up” somehow with Red and Transom.

Red doesn’t want to know anymore secrets. The more secrets he discovers, the more exposed his own secret becomes.

Where is Transom Shultz?

I was nervous for everyone in this novel. I did not want anyone’s secrets revealed, and as the investigation proceeds, the pressure on everyone to tell what they know increases exponentially. I believe in carrying your own water, and these people have toted it through rivers and over dales. Everyone has motive, and everyone knows something that might have bearing on the case. The thing of it is, at the end of the day, does anyone in Fallen Mountains really want to know what happened to Transom Shultz? What will be the cost?

If I were to put my finger on one thing that Kimi Cunningham Grant is really good at, I’d say it has to be the psychological perceptions she brings to each of her characters. Their motivations, their decisions, their thought processes all ring true. If we cast Transom as the villain, I still can’t completely despise him because Grant gives me insight into the shards of his past that shaped him as a human being. The vulnerability of her characters is revealed to us, piece by piece until the mosaic of their individual puzzles start to resemble the soul of Fallen Mountains. By the end of the book, we know these people better than we know some of our friends, and we can’t help but root for every one of them to find some way to be happy.

I asked Kimi Cunningham Grant if she would answer a few questions, and she graciously said yes!

Jeffrey D. Keeten:I grew up in a small farming town in Kansas, so the small town feel of Fallen Mountains, Pennsylvania, felt very familiar to me. What motivated you to set your first novel in a small town?

Kimi Cunningham Grant:When the idea for this book first came to me, I was walking on public land, and I came across a sign stating that it was going to be developed. Chase was the first character that came to me. I knew I wanted to explore the issue of feeling deeply connected to land, and a small town farmer felt like the right place to start.

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Kimi Cunningham Grant

JDK:It felt to me like there were bits of Kimi Grant in most of the characters of this novel. Who did you identify with the most as you were writing this novel?

KCG:This is something I love thinking about! How our lives—who we know, what we read, where we go—shape a text. I think there are always parts of the author in everything she writes; it’s impossible to separate who I am from what I write. Related to that, of course, is my belief that readers shape the text, too. For instance, you’ll most likely have a different reading of this novel than say, a twenty-three year old British woman. You’ve read different things; you’ve experienced different things; you likely “read” the world (and texts) differently. (See T.S. Eliot’s “Tradition and the Individual Talent” and Roland Barthes’ “The Death of the Author” if you want to tumble deeper into the rabbit hole of questions of writing, reading, and meaning!)

But I digress. None of the characters in this novel are autobiographical. As a parent, I identified with Red’s desire to protect his family. As someone who loves the natural world, I identified with Chase. I sympathized with Possum and really enjoyed developing him. The bits of Kimi Grant in these characters are more things like… my husband is a biologist who has spent years researching the effects of fracking on Pennsylvania streams, and my sons have a red wagon, and I’ve always been curious about trapping.

JDK:The book is divided into Before and After chapters. Did you write the book following the linear time and then mix the chapters, or did you write the book in the way it is published, with the two timelines intermixed by writing a chapter on one time line and then the other?

KCG:Early drafts were written linearly, but I realized that if I wanted the central mystery to be “What happened to Transom Shultz?” I couldn’t have him disappear on page 200! It needed to happen much earlier. I eventually settled on the Before and After structure, but honestly, the structure was hands-down the hardest part of writing this novel. I kept reading books in this genre to learn how successful authors handled mysteries, but it took me a long time to get it right.

JDK:I read somewhere that you write before your family wakes up in the morning. The challenge for most writers is actually finding uninterrupted time to focus entirely on what they are writing. I frequently find myself suddenly struck by a brilliant little nugget when I'm trapped in a social circumstance and unable to break away to flush out the idea. Would you share how you have structured your time for writing and how you deal with inspiration at the most “inconvenient" times?

KCG:You’re right. I do write mostly in the morning, before my family wakes up. I’m a homeschooling mom, so my kids are with me all day, every day. They like to talk to me A LOT, which is great, but it also makes it almost impossible to concentrate during the twelve hours that I’m with them each day. As far as actual writing, early morning is what works for me. I do get quiet windows here and there, and I try to make the most of them. I think about my writing a lot when I’m in the woods, and as a family, we try to be there a lot. So, sometimes I’m envisioning a scene or tweaking aspects of a character while the kids are bouldering or running down the trail. I also drive in silence if I’m alone, and I get some good mental work done then, too.

JDK:This is a novel of secrets and their impacts on those that hold those secrets and those who would have benefited from or been adversely affected by them. I enjoyed the fact that, in the course of the novel, you showed all the various ways secrets impact those who hold them and those who reveal them. How do you personally feel about secrets? The saying is that honesty is always the best policy, but is it really?

KCG:The novel IS about secrets, isn’t it? I never intended for it to be so much about secrets as it is about the simple premise that people are complicated. “Good” people can do bad things, and “bad” people can do good things. When I first began writing this, I mostly wanted to explore whether even very “good” people can, under certain tensions and in certain situations, do things they swore they’d never do. The secrets tumbled in and ended up becoming central to the book.

JDK:Fallen Mountains is slated to be published in March 2019, but what else do you have in the hopper? Another novel, I hope? I once read that Stephen King always has three completed manuscripts in his vault, so when the publisher needs the next one, he just fetches one to send them. So how full is your vault? :-)

KCG:I DO have another novel in the hopper! I’ve sent it off to my agent, Amy Cloughley, who is wonderful, and who will help me iron out any lingering problems. I have two other ideas for novels that aren’t fully fleshed out yet. One is started; one isn’t.

I want to thank Kimi Cunningham Grant and Amberjack Publishing for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Friday, January 11, 2019

Greeting Cards

Dreamspinner Press
Reviewed by Nancy
3 out of 5 stars


Holidays are for lovers, just apparently not Ben Haggerty. Not this holiday. After his degree-seeking lover leaves humble blue-collar Ben, Ben spends the Yuletide miserable. He's not accustomed to being alone, not after seven years. Eventually Ben finds his lover's new address and sends him a greeting card asking when he'll come back home—only to learn in the returned correspondence that his card reached the wrong address and another man, Jason Prescott, by mistake.

Jason is touched by Ben's appeal to his lover, and he and Ben spend months growing close as pen pals. Frequently exchanged correspondence turns into weekends spent together, but after learning Jason's working on his second master's degree and is even smarter than Ben's ex, Ben wonders if Jason will be able to love someone as ordinary as he is.

My Review

When Ben comes home from a long day at work, he finds the apartment he shares with Rick, his boyfriend of 8 years, strangely tidy and empty. Although Rick’s note promises his departure is only temporary, several months pass without any word from him. Lonely and inconsolable, Ben asks a friend to find out Rick’s address and he sends a card. The card reaches a student named Jason Prescott. Thinking the card was from his sister, Jason is surprised to read a sad letter from a man who is still very heartbroken. So begins the correspondence between Jason and Ben.

I loved the men’s cutesy cards and unique holidays, like Submarine Day, National Goof Off Day, Smoke and Mirrors Day and International Moments of Laughter Day. Their letters were fun to read, but they lacked depth, making their eventual meeting and relationship feel just a little rushed and unconvincing. I liked that both men have very different backgrounds. Jason is working on his second master’s degree while Ben just graduated high school and works as an electrician. I liked the secondary characters, but found Rick very one-dimensional. It was difficult for me to see why Ben was drawn to him at all, much less spend 8 years of his life with such a jerk. A little more tension and heat, and this would have been a nearly perfect story.

It’s a new year and I can be forgiving of these minor flaws which didn’t prevent me from enjoying this lovely, sweet and humorous romance that was just perfect for the holidays.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Spirits of Vengeance: War at the Gates of Hell

Spirits of Vengeance: War at the Gates of HellSpirits of Vengeance: War at the Gates of Hell by Victor Gischler
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A mysterious stranger approaches Johnny Blaze with a piece of metal and a message to take it to Hellstrom,
before he spontaneously combusted. Hell is making it's move to betray a covenant with Heaven to take over the Earth. Hellstrom, Ghost Rider, Blade, and Satana must come together to save the Earth from Hell.

Despite looking cool Spirits of Vengeance was pretty generic. Predictable plot points, a rushed story, and characters who didn't need to be there, looking at you Blade, made the story uneventful. Seriously though Blade didn't need to be included at all. They probably could have done it without Satana too. Hellstrom and Ghost Rider did all the heavy lifting.
I have to list the Spirits of Vengeance as a disappointment.

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Wednesday, January 9, 2019


Hungry Ghosts #1Hungry Ghosts #1 by Anthony Bourdain
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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A Russian oligarch, with an unsavory past (are there any other kind?), has assembled a group of international chefs for a night of feasting. Before the oligarch lets them go, he challenges them to play the samurai game of 100 candles. Each chef needs to tell a story featuring demons, ghosts, or revealing other teeth chattering, inspiring, supernatural beings, whose names you do not speak above a soft whisper.

The theme of these stories, of course, revolves around food and revenge, which for those who have followed Anthony Bourdain’s career know he speaks of with reverence often. I might even speculate that some of these tales give Anthony a chance to enact some literary revenge on some particularly nasty individuals he had the misfortune of meeting in his food service days. Only Anthony would know the true targets of his Hungry Ghost revenge, but hopefully, when he saw the proofs of this graphic novel, he chuckled over the eviscerated bodies of some old enemies.

The last correspondence between Anthony Bourdain and his collaborator, Joel Rose, was the dedication for the book.

“This book is dedicated to the memory and enduring allure
of EC Comics and their pre-Comics Code masterworks:
The Haunt of Fear, the Vault of Horror, and Tales from the Crypt
(nee The Crypt of Terror)
, and their master storytellers:
The Old Witch, the Vault Keeper, and the Crypt Keeper.
May resting in peace not be an option.”

When I was in my heyday of comic book reading, from about age 10-14, I didn’t even know those wonderful horror comic books existed. They didn’t show up on the shelves of my comic book dealer, who also doubled as the biggest drug dealer in the area, commonly called a pharmacist. He had superhero comics by the wheelbarrow load, Archie comics (isn’t Riverdale, by the way, proving to be so much fun?), and fortunately for me, Weird Western Tales, where I was first introduced to Jonah Hex. Unfortunately, EC Comics shuttered their doors long before I was reading comics, so in the late 1970s I would have had to be very fortunate to run across them. It wasn’t until I was in college and working in the used book industry that I ran across a batch of these old horror comics. I took them home and binged them. I was really impressed with the level of writing and the true terror they were able to inspire in me. I wish I had bought them instead of returning them to the shelves of the bookstore, where they disappeared in the blink of an eye into the greedy hands of wild eyed collectors, who were flinging money at us while trying to hide the boners inspired by their unexpected discovery of a goldmine of comics.

I’m not exaggerating.

Interestingly enough, Joel Rose mentions the influence that Lafcadio Hearn’s book Kwaidan: Japanese Ghost Stories had on the writing of this graphic novel, along with several other books he mentions in the Stirring the Pot essay in the back of the book. I’ve had Lafcadio Hearn on my radar for years, and now with a gentle nudge from Anthony, I’m going to make sure his book on Japanese ghost stories queues up in my reading list this year.

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As a bonus, Anthony includes five Bourdain recipes with explicit instructions on how to make these mouth watering dishes in your own kitchen.

Who doesn’t need a splash of Food Noir Horror in their reading schedule, especially with a splash of that acerbic Bourdain wit which frequently had me muttering to myself...I see you Anthony, with your red rimmed eyes and mischievous grin?

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Friday, January 4, 2019

The Sky is Dead

Sue Brown
Dreamspinner Press
Reviewed by Nancy
4 out of 5 stars


Danny is young, gay, and homeless. He lives in the park, preferring to avoid attention, but when thugs confront a stranger, Danny rushes to his rescue. He and the would-be victim, Harry, form a cautious friendship that deepens months later, when Harry persuades Danny to visit his home. Daring to believe he has found happiness, Danny finds his world turned upside down yet again when tragedy strikes.

Until he runs out of options, Danny won’t trust anyone. Finally he has to accept the offer of a home, and Danny becomes David, but adjusting to a new life isn’t easy. When he meets the mysterious Jack, it stirs up feelings he thought were long gone. Can David dare to allow himself to love? Or will the truth bring his new world tumbling down around him?

My Review

16-year-old Danny’s troubles start when he gets caught kissing his boyfriend, Steve, on New Year’s Eve. His father beats the crap out of him and his parents promptly throw him out of their house, forcing him to stay with Steve. Steve’s parents don’t let him stay long and off he goes to a halfway house, where he has his possessions stolen by his homophobic roommate. Danny still runs into Steve in school, but now he has a girlfriend. His heart broken, and unable to control his anger, he breaks his roommate’s nose.

Now he’s living on the street sleeping on cardboard boxes. He goes to the drop-in now and then for food and conversation. The social workers and volunteers want to help him, offer him space in a shelter, get him to take some courses, and provide hospital care when he catches pneumonia from sleeping rough. But Danny doesn’t want to follow rules and has a difficult time trusting others, so he continues to live in the park.

His friendship with Harry starts tentatively, when Harry is getting taunted by bullies in the park and Danny comes to his aid. Harry brings food and they begin spending a lot of time together. The walls Danny built up gradually start to come down and Harry learns first-hand what it means to struggle every day to survive.

Danny’s life takes a turn for the worse when he learns Harry is gone, survives a vicious assault and is hospitalized yet again with pneumonia. He’s approaching 20 now and living rough has really taken a toll on him. He is fortunate to encounter two strong-willed women who want to help him get a fresh start. For Danny, starting over means changing his name to David. He wants to put his past behind him, even keeping it from the man he meets and grows to love.

Even though there is a love story at its heart, this is a sad and realistic tale that explores youth homelessness that results from homophobia. My younger brother was thrown out of my parents’ house shortly after he turned 17, no thought given to his future. He was made to pack his clothing and given one week to move out. Fortunately, I was already living on my own and was able to give him a place to stay. Granted, the apartment was tiny, the neighborhood undesirable, and he had to sleep on the floor, but it sure beats living on the streets. He stayed with me for a year, until he saved enough money for his own apartment and graduated high school. If he didn’t have any support, I can’t imagine that his life would have turned out much better than Danny’s did.

This was almost a five-star read for me. There is a plot twist that nearly ruined the story for me, but I won’t elaborate about it here. Despite this flaw, this story is well worth reading. The cover and title are perfect too.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Bloody Rose

Bloody Rose (The Band, #2)Bloody Rose by Nicholas Eames
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Bloody Rose, the daughter of Golden Gabe, is the front woman Fable. Fable is the best band and everyone knows them. Upon learning that Fable needs a new bard, Tam Hashford is lucky enough to get a chance to audition and join the band. She goes off on a greater adventure than she ever expected.

Bloody Rose was a solid book. I have to admit I never quite connected with it like I did it's predecessor. It has practically all of the same story aspects that made up Kings of the Wyld which didn't necessarily help the story for me. The one aspect that was different didn't help either because despite liking Tam as a character and the sole point of view character, she was no Clay Cooper.

The thing I enjoyed most about Bloody Rose is the characters. Fable is made up of Rose who simply wants to step out of her father's shadow, Freecloud the kind druin who is madly in love with Rose, Brune the shaman and joyful individual, Cura the mysterious and emotionally damaged summoner, and Tam the new bard who wants to see the world. The camaraderie between the characters is truly excellent. The book also shows some fan favorites from the series and time hasn't dimmed them at all.

The large aspect of the story I didn't like is the world itself. I don't find the world with it's monsters, humans, and druins compelling at all. The author very clearly demonstrated at the end of Kings of the Wyld what the sequel was likely to focus on and he used that obvious setup. I just want to care for what's happening in the world, but it simply doesn't do anything for me. Perhaps if more background was spent showing the world when the druins arrived or even the world that Gabe grew up in. Instead it's just a world full of attention seekers who largely fight exaggerated fights for glory over any true need.

Bloody Rose was an average book for me.

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Wednesday, January 2, 2019


If Beale Street Could TalkIf Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

”I thought of Fonny’s touch, of Fonny, in my arms, his breath, his touch, his odor, his weight, that terrible and beautiful presence riding into me and his breath being snarled, as if by a golden thread, deeper and deeper in his throat as he rode--as he rode deeper and deeper not so much into me as into a kingdom which lay just behind his eyes. He worked on wood that way. He worked on stone that way. If I had never seen him work, I might never have known he loved me.

It’s a miracle to realize that somebody loves you.”

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Stephen James and Kiki Layne star in the 2018 film that was released on December 25th.

Fonny and Tish have known each other nearly their entire lives. Sometimes relationships like this evolve into being friends or at least acquaintances for life. Sometimes they become lovers, and when lightning strikes the same place twice, they become lovers and best friends.

Lightning struck twice.

This is a tale of two families. Tish’s family is not only supportive of the relationship but go so far as to consider Fonny part of their family. As Tish and Fonny are caught up in the whirlwind of 1970s racist New York, the support of Tish’s family is the only thing standing between Fonny spending a good part of his life in jail and Tish having to work the streets to make enough money to afford a lawyer for his defense.

Fonny’s family is a different story. His mother has never thought highly of him or his prospects. She is a religious nut who, in her fervor for her God, has lifted herself up above the rest of humanity. From this perch, she can cast judgments down on those around her, especially those not heeding the call of the church. She would be a better Christian if she were casting bread instead of casting aspersions. Fonny’s two older sisters, taking their cues from their mother, are dismissive of their little brother as well and find it embarrassing, rather than tragic, that he has been arrested. They are sure he is guilty because they have found him guilty his whole life.

Fonny’s father is an interesting character. He is a man who loves his family, but he knows that Fonny needs his love more than the rest. Tish’s father, Joseph, is always bucking Frank up, giving him hope.

”’Look. I know what you’re saying. You’re saying they got us by the balls. Okay. But that’s our flesh and blood, baby: our flesh and blood. I don’t know how we going to do it. I just know we have to do it. I know you ain’t scared for you., and God knows I ain’t scared for me. That boy is got to come out of there. That’s all. And we got to get him out. That’s all. And the first thing we got to do, man, is just not to lose our nerve. We can’t let those cunt-faced, white-assed motherfuckers get away with this shit any longer.’ He subsides, he sips his beer. ‘They been killing our children long enough.’”

James Baldwin was proclaiming that #blacklivesmatter from the beginning of his existence as a writer.

Being a young, virile, prideful, black man in the 1970s was a dangerous thing to be. Fonny, by breathing the same air and walking the same streets as the predominantly white police force, has committed a crime. Yes, he has committed a crime by existing. When he comes to the attention of one particular cop, it is only a matter of time before he is put in the frame for something. This cop has an interest in Fonny that is akin to sexual desire. He pursues him like a spurned lover pursues the person of their affection. He is the head of the hammer of white fear.

”He walked the way John Wayne walks, striding out to clean up the universe, and he believed all that shit: a wicked, stupid, infantile motherfucker. Like his heroes, he was kind of a pinheaded, heavy gutted, big assed, and his eyes were as blank as George Washington’s eyes. But I was beginning to learn something about the blankness of eyes. What I was learning was beginning to frighten me to death. If you look steadily into that unblinking blue, into that pinpoint at the center of the eye, you discover a bottomless cruelty, a viciousness cold and icy. In that eye, you do not exist: if you are lucky”

The problem is that Fonny is at the pinpoint of that blue eye.

This is a book about injustice, about family sticking together, about community, and it is about love, real love, soul trembling love. It is the type of love that, when your lover walks in the room, you feel your insides turn to Champagne with frenzied bubbles and a cork in your throat trembling to hold it all in.

One thing I’ve learned about life is those that have the least to give, give the most.

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Two Bards hanging out together. The conversation they would have had over a bottle of wine.

James Baldwin moved to Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France in 1970. This book was published in 1974. Even though he was an American in exile, America came to him. Miles Davis, Josephine Baker, Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, Ray Charles, and many more made pilgrimages to see him. He spent most of his days writing and responding to correspondence from all over the world. He changed lives with his gift of hope and his honesty about what was really happening to Black America. Every time I read one of his books, I am struck by the power of his prose and the passion of his anger. He was determined to drag America, kicking and screaming, under a soul revealing, bright light so the demons of inequality, racism, and hatred have a chance to be exorcised.

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